Greg Holt, a recent MFA
acting graduate, is playing the part of le Vicomte de Valmont in a group of
selected scenes from the play Dangerous Liaisons.
Looking in on the production, the scene is truly a mix of
theatrical and film worlds.
Set in the Glady G. Davis thrust theater space within
the Creative Arts
Center on WVU’s Evensdale campus, Holt
sits at a writing desk with beautifully scribed prop letters strewn about the
desk and floor. The scene is lit with instruments from the theater’s grid and
also with free-standing film lights. There’s a camera on track and dolly and
video monitors broadcasting the camera’s point of view. Holt is in full 18th
century French Renaissance apparel.
“It reminds me of when I was a little kid,” Holt says. “I
used to play imaginary football games out in the back yard. Or I would play
cowboys and Indians. I remember I would make my mom put lipstick on my cheeks,
like war make-up. And I had to have that in order to lay as fully amerced as I
wanted to play. I had to get the costume on, the helmet on, the war-paint on.
And somehow that made it easier for me to play more freely.
"That’s what this
process is like. You get these wonderful costumes on and it helps you disappear
into the skin of the character even more.”
Costume Professor Linda Milian conceived of the project a
“Part of our responsibilities as faculty is to be involved
in research so I thought a logical place to take my experience as a costume
constructionist and my interest in costume design and combine it,” Milian
“There’s this special moment between an actor and a costume and I
think it’s a part of the process that the general public isn’t aware of because
it’s all done behind closed doors.”
Milian says one challenge she faced was taking her own experience
getting costumes ready for theater productions where there’s time allotted for fittings,
dress rehearsals, and fine-tuning garments, and adapting to the ready-set-go
world of film production.
“When you’re filming, it’s gotta be there or it’s just not
going to work. I think that’s been the biggest learning curve for me. It’s been
an interesting process.”
Actress and Professor of Theatre Cathy O’Dell is directing
the performance aspects of the production. She says in any acting arena,
clothing affects action, especially when dealing with period costumes.
“The actors get into the whole gear,” O’Dell says. “You
start the women with the corsets and the undergarments and the men with the
stocking and the little high-heeled shoes and the wigs and the ties and they
just wore so much stuff. You have to deal with that as an actor. You have to
learn how to walk, how to sit, how to move in those costumes because we’re not
used to that.”
The director of the video is a WVU graduate who hails
originally from Preston County,
White moved to Los Angeles
to pursue a career as a filmmaker. He worked his way from a production
assistant to production manager and producer and then started his own
production company he dubbed Recycled Movie because project funding comes from
collecting recycling at live events.
“It’s been my dream to come back to West
Virginia and continue working as a filmmaker,” says
White. “So to make that happen I’ve been working with Pam Haynes at the West
Virginia Film Office and now I’m collaborating with the university trying to
build momentum and interest in film.”
White would like to eventually run summer camps where kids
can learn by creating short films.
“I’d like to see a film program at West
or to have a professional sound stage built so that Hollywood
productions would be more inclined to shoot here and I feel this is one of the
first steps. By creating awareness and creating projects that not only show my
skills but also show the abilities of local talent. I really feel this will
help with the growth of the local film industry here in West
Virginia and I intend to support that.”
WVU’s Theater and Dance Department was able to provide a
pool of actors and crew, as well as donate from its growing arsenal of film
production equipment to make this film happen. O’Dell says she hopes the end
product, a 25-minute docudrama, will be available online in coming months.